“2012 Dolewave” as Lachlan Denton described one of their final songs, is officially laid to rest. The Ocean Party have put this particular project to rest after the passing of member Zac Denton. I won’t discuss his passing in this recap however, as I believe that’s a personal matter for his friends and family. This is simply a nice recap for one of my favourite bands this decade, as iconic of a Melbourne band as it gets. A band you’ll play to your kids in 20 years and say, “This pretty much sums up what the 2010-2020 decade felt like in our twenties.”
If the ’90s in Melbourne were punk rock, the 2000’s were keyboard revivalists unafraid to dance again at a pub gig. The 2010-2020 had a fleet of bands inspired by ’80s Australian acts such as The Go-Betweens, bands not full of angst, not learning to dance for the first time, just bands trying to understand the world and feeling like they haven’t got much power all the way down in Melbourne. Bands that write about the feelings that come to mind walking from work to gigs to somebodies backyard drinks, to the morning after with lyrics such as “Every weekend’s always the same, Girl in my room, I don’t know her name, I’m high on Saturday, suicidal on Sunday, I’m wastin’ my youth away”.
Looking for people to connect with, and that’s what The Ocean Party did as well as anyone in Melbourne. They felt like your good friend, never above or below you. The Ocean Party were like the friend who you didn’t really know, but you knew you could trust them. Their intentions were pure, they were pure musicians, not accountants pretending to be musicians for financial benefits. As you could tell, the band never made much money (just look at the beloved touring van they once drilled together).
Despite emerging from the Dolewave label, that generally implied morals slightly healthier than stoner rock, The Ocean Party actually tackled world problems in their songs too. Their 2015 track ‘Guess Work‘ is about the gun problem in the USA and it’s one of their more memorable songs. The occasional acknowledgement of the larger world around them, meant that when they did just sing about ‘Chinese Takeaway‘, these songs served as stress release distractions that we sometimes need from the hectic life of the overbearing world at times. I think of S02E01 of the TV show High Maintenance, when all of New York finds out Donald Trump got elected, and immediately weed sales skyrocket. If I was soundtracking a Melbourne version of High Maintenance, I’d choose tracks such as ‘More To Run‘, that sings “Have to believe in more than myself / to keep hangin’ on”. A song really concerned with what’s happening socially outside of the northside Melbourne bubble. Or ‘Split‘ that sings “I’m torn between what I want and / what I have to do/ I am finding it hard / I am split”, the band also chose this to be their final song played in Melbourne on the 23rd of March 2019.
The final Melbourne gig was a brilliant and emotional homage to Zac Denton. The band brought on stage guest singers for different Zac songs.
Emma Russack for ‘Nothing Grows‘
Will Farrier for ‘Model Sheep‘
Ashley Bundang for ‘Useless‘
Amanda Roff for ‘Country Air‘
Dominic Kearton stepped in on ‘Rain On Tin‘
and Snowy stepped in on ‘We Should Do This Again‘
While many of them shed a tear or two, it was Zac’s partner Mashara Wachjudy singing ‘Birth Place‘ that was gut-retching and beautiful and not something I’ll ever forget. The band joked that you can tell an Ocean Party song from another one of their side projects, because “they’re the honest songs”. I think another word they could’ve used was “vulnerable”, The Ocean Party always seemed to unlock the confidence in each other to be honest and vulnerable on stage. Something rarely found in a band from all of its members. Sets sometimes felt like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where band members took turns being honest and vulnerable with strangers.
It was fitting that for their final song and performance of ‘Split’, they encouraged the crowd to come on stage and sing along together, groups of 4 or 5 people around each microphone, bringing the bands country community spirit to the city one last time. Combine that with the Howler PA system and a wonderful sound mix via Bonnie Knight, a mix as lush and defined as I ever heard The Ocean Party. Where the guitars glistened like The War On Drugs, and all the instruments’ special subtle interplay was clearly defined. The band, friends, fans and family made Zac Denton, where ever he is now, smile at least one more time.
After the February release of her sophomore album Crushing, Julia Jacklin played to a sold-out crowd at iconic Melbourne venue The Forum Theatre whilst on her first national tour for 2019. Having recently moved to Melbourne, and on her last tour selling out two Corner Hotel gigs, she is clearly loved in her new home-town.
In the venue, the audience’s adoration was evidenced throughout the night – gentle humming and singing in the background of every tune. Nevertheless, Jacklin still seems surprised by her fame: “I’m struck by the absurdity of what I’m doing. I’m just playing guitar on a stage with my friends.”
And that is exactly what she does. Jacklin’s live show doesn’t rely on any distractions or tricks. Instead, her performance is one that is understated yet immense. The instrumentals are sparse and restrained, but powerful in the way they fill the space. This allows Jacklin’s voice to be the centrepiece, and the acoustics are clear enough to showcase her skills as a classically trained vocalist.
Her music is the perfect fit for a venue this size or smaller: its lyrics are intimate and thoughtful, reflective in nature and tending towards self-examination. With the Forum’s cerulean-blue ceiling lit to imitate the evening sky, the overall effect is breathtaking and powerful. This was felt particularly moments before ‘When the Family Flies in‘ as Jacklin recounted for the audience the loss of a friend, and to whom the song was dedicated – “this song isn’t pleasant at all.”
However, the entire evening was punctuated with more moments of humour than seriousness. Not long after this sombre moment she gave a shout out to “Ryan The Sound Guy”, recalling a time when they had a night out which ended with her waking up, covered in fries. She is everyone’s secret spirit animal.
Stories aside though, Jacklin’s music is immersive and captivating, uniting her audience as one big-love-entity. As the night came to an end, with her eyes closed, head rocking back to the sky, crowd singing along to ‘Motherland‘ and hearing “And oh I’m good, I think I’m good; Will I be great, will I be great?”… well, we believe the evidence is clear that Julia Jacklin is and always will be “Great”.
Held on the first Friday of every month, Melbourne Museum’s Nocturnal has established itself as a highlight of Melbourne’s live music and cultural scenes. On Friday 4th May, guests were treated to a special offering hosted by the Museum in collaboration with the independent record label and management collective Our Golden Friend. The artists on display included Jade Imagine, RVG, Jess Ribeiro and Totally Mild, each of which is managed by Our Golden Friend. The ensemble recently concluded a tour across the United States in March, giving Nocturnal the feel of a happy family reunion which happened to feature some of the most unique and promising talents in Australian music.
Before recapping the performances, it’s worth reflecting on how extraordinary Nocturnal is as an interactive venue and immersive experience. Located in the Edenic Carlton Gardens, the postmodern Melbourne Museum is transformed into an otherworldly “adult playground” with an impressive array of bars and other dining options. The exhibits are open to the public for exploration between sets, including the stunning Vikings: Beyond the Legend, Te Vainui O Pasifika, and Dinosaur Walk. We are encouraged to re-experience the childlike sense of wonderment, awe and discovery that children have when they step into a museum.
With summer in the rear-view mirror and Melburnians now bracing for a bitter winter, cultural offerings such as these have never been more important. They represent little oases of colour, pleasure, and abundance that sustain us through the desert of the working week. Melbourne Museum and Our Golden Friend should be congratulated for this outstanding event.
Keeping the themes of discovery and contemplation of the sublime in mind, patrons flocked to the main stage to see Melbourne indie staples Jade Imagine take the stage. Resplendent in her pink power suit, black RM Williams boots, and orange polka-dot socks, lead singer Jade McInally (Teeth & Tongue) created an ethereal aesthetic and atmosphere which suited Nocturnal perfectly. She was brilliantly supported by guitarist Tim Harvey, his brother James Harvey on drums, and bassist Liam ‘Snowy’ Halliwell.
With their dream-pop, low-fi and folksy sound evoking The Shins, Simon & Garfunkel, and Sibylle Baier, Jade Imagine were spellbinding to watch live. As an ensemble, they have gone through many incarnations, but this line up of performers feels just right. Each band member also performs as a vocalist, which Jade Imagine used to great effect on stage through harmonization to create a dreamy wall of sound, which feels like they’re wrapping you up in a big hug. Their musical style supports the band’s deeply evocative and poetic lyrics, which sometimes border on magical realism.
One of the most anticipated acts of Nocturnal was RVG, led by the sensational frontwoman Romy Vager. Despite Romy battling through sickness, RVG put on an electric and rollicking performance which had the crowd in raptures. Having released their debut album A Quality of Mercy (Our Golden Friend/Island Records) in August 2017, the band has already picked up a suite of awards including four nominations each for The Age Music Victoria Awards and the AIR Music Awards.
One is struck by the sense that RVG is on the brink of a very special career, spearheaded by Romy’s unforgettable and deeply moving voice, which transcends genres and eludes definition. Punters revelled in the power, goth and glam of the performance, which recalled the brooding and melancholic stylings of Joy Division’s Ian Smith. Romy’s lyrics are pared-down, hardboiled and often monosyllabic, which lets the profundity of the words hit you in the chest like a hammer: “I used to love you / but now I don’t / and I don’t feel bad / we’re just not the same any more / we’re just not the same”. *dies*.
When enigmatic Jess Ribeiro took the stage patrons were enveloped by the smoky texture of lead-singer Jess’s voice, which is informed by the diverse hinterland of her travels and musical background. It’s been a remarkable personal and creative journey for the talented frontwoman, ranging from the outback and tropics of the Northern Territory to the urban wintriness of Melbourne. Along the way, Jess has found critical acclaim with My Little River (2012), which won the ABC Radio National Album of the Year and Best Country Album (AIR). This dusky country feel came through at the Museum, where the band performed tracks such as ‘Hurry Back to Love‘, ‘Slip The Leash‘ and ‘Strange Game‘.
Jess Ribeiro is getting ready to release their next record in 2018. Jess has worked with some impressive producers in her career, most notably Mick Harvey (The Bad Seeds) who helped Jess rediscover her muse after a three-year hiatus to produce the critically-acclaimed Kill It Yourself (Barely Dressed Records, 2015). She’s recently spent a lot of time in New Zealand collaborating with producer Ben Edwards, who has worked with other emerging Antipodean sensations such as Marlon Williams, Julia Jacklin, and Aldous Harding. One has the feeling that big things are on the horizon for Jess Ribeiro as a collective, and I also suspect that lead-singer Jess will one day make a brilliant producer herself.
Rounding out the evening was Melbourne lush quartet Totally Mild. Frontwoman Elizabeth Mitchell was sublime and at her charming and magnetic best. Her angelic and versatile voice enchanted the crowd, and one could feel the influence of her choral background coursing through her. She was brilliantly supported by the intricate sounds of guitarist Zachary Schneider, the subtle indie drumming of Dylan Young, and rolling bass of Lehmann Smith. Totally Mild make for disorienting performers. You’re so beguiled by the heady, atmospheric sweetness of their musical stylings and by the band’s extroverted stage presence that you miss the dark and brooding nature of their lyrics, best exemplified by their biggest hit ‘Christa. I think this makes their music more impactful and compelling, as it enables Mitchell to speak about highly-sensitive topics such as depression and loneliness in subtle, disarming ways.
It was fitting that the night closed with Totally Mild, who released their second record Her in February. It’s a thoughtful and complex meditation on the experience of being a woman in the 21st century, which was a powerful acknowledgement of the fact that Nocturnal was headlined by four bands which each featured creatively confident, highly-intelligent, and empathic frontwomen at a time when the Australian music industry is being criticised for inadequate representation of female artists at music festivals. Speaking with Elizabeth over the phone, she informed me that Her “speaks to the tension between independence and the sense of having unlimited potential as a young woman, but also still being bound by structural oppression and other personal limitations, such as mental health and other social roles”.
The drive to By The Meadow doesn’t feel all that different to the drive to Meredith or Golden Plains. You head towards Geelong, you take the bypass and at some point, you take a turn off away from Geelong for 40 minutes. The first main difference that caught our attention was instead of going through a small town with a pub like Meredith, you read a green wooden sign that says Bambra Bushland Reserve – Removal Of Forest Produce Illegal. This sign sets the tone early, you now know you’re entering nature with some music inside, not a music festival carved into nature.
It feels like the location of the Shady Cottage 2016, on a farm in Trentham, except upon entry to Shady Cottage you went past the house on the property, reminding you that you’re on a farm. At By The Meadow, it took until 7 pm on Saturday for me to notice the location of the house on the farm, hidden back up the hill behind the back of the camping area. For 24 hours I could’ve easily have been in a National Park instead.
When you enter the festival site, there’s one woman checking the car for glass, but instead of the reasonably thorough search one would get at Meredith or the very thorough search at Falls Festival, there’s a trust by the woman. If you say you don’t have glass, she trusts that you’re telling the truth, no search is actually needed. This trust is important, like leaving your clothes by the side of a public pool; you’ll enjoy your swim more if you don’t consistently think somebody will steal your stuff.
By The Meadow has all the nice aspects of other Victorian boutique festivals. The area feels expansive yet close like Camp Casual 2015 in Gippsland. The divide between the tents and car area brings the friendly neighbour tents closer together like Inner Varnika 2013 in Ruffy. There’s an endless view as the sun descends like Paradise Music Festival on Lake Mountain. There’s a valley drop facing the sunset like Sunset Point at Meredith, except at this one you can also camp on it and make it your morning view from your tent. In the words of two overheard early comments “fuck it’s fucking nice” and “this feels like home, very calming.”
But no festival is perfect and there’s still some work in progress elements for By The Meadow. But first, the tunes:
Unfortunately, I missed Tram Cops, but he’s definitely an artist I’m curious to follow the progress of as he plays more live shows. The first band I saw was Totally Mild. If you were new to any of these artists, but you had some understanding and appreciation for hearing four individually talented musicians working together as a cohesive unit, creating something bigger than the sum of its parts, then Totally Mild would confuse you as to how they are still playing 500 people festivals. In another world where dream pop is pop, By The Meadow can’t snatch Totally Mild, because they are too busy headlining festivals worldwide. But instead we don’t live in that world, and lucky for us, because we get to hear them up close, with a quiet appreciation around us, on a sound system that’s 10 out of 10. Yes, the sound system was that good — it made hearing bands you’ve heard many times before a whole new experience.
Cameron Wade (who is behind By The Meadow) said in his interview that the sound was the most important thing to get right. I won’t get too technical, but essentially the sound system was the XD15 series by Martin Audio London with 3 stack X118 series (I think) subs on both sides. What that means was that bands had a full range of highs, mids and lows, and the wide frequency distinction was clear up close or up on the hill. You could hear separation between guitars, between different toms, it wasn’t quite like monitors in a studio, but it was an ear pleasure nonetheless. But the really impressive part was that because of the 6 subs, the electronic acts at night had a powerful low-end to work with, throttling your gut into the early hours. That’s hard to do and is rare at small festivals, to make both bands and electronic artists sound even better than most small venues in Melbourne.
Next up was The Harpoons, and despite having to restart one song due to I think laptop problems, they came home particularly strong and worked seamlessly as a segway into the Daydreams DJ set. Which is in part due to their latest album Amaro carrying a stronger house structure than their previous work, likely influenced by member Jack Madin’s latest side project Shouse, which dives into a variety of house genres.
Max and Mark of Daydreams (no Luke Pocock) know what time it is. They didn’t waste any time pretending this was a Sunday daytime Daydreams set at The Gasometer with light-outside house or disco. They got dark and hectic quick, taking turns whipping this party into shape. Then as soon as you thought you were in for a session of hard techno, they starting dropping lots of ’90s tracks and pop songs. Which isn’t my personal taste, but it’s a wise move to make at a festival, where people are generally more social and silly than in the club environment, but dropping Jimmy Barnes was surely too far. I know he’s relevant again due to that Kirin J Callinan collaboration, but I’m calling them out on that one, a very rare mistake. Almost as if they knew they pushed the boundaries a little too far, they won me back by dropping ‘On & On’ by Orbital, which again, on that sound system, had me lost in my head for at least five minutes
It also helped that the lighting technician was dialled in on every track drop and mood change. What a lot of big festivals do, is they tend to use their best technicians on the bands because they have a lot of pressure to not miss a cue, but then they generally tend to sub out and sleep when the DJ’s come on stage late at night. Usually, it’s either a young tech told not to use the best lights and save them for the bands or the sound guy takes over. Which often leads to bland and boring lighting just scrolling on a loop for the rest of the night. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when the lights are cued throughout the whole night, the highs are way higher — after all, there’s not much to look at during a DJ set, so the lighting is how we process the journey. This minor detail brightened many sets throughout the weekend.
As the Daydreams set continued beyond its intended finish time of 1 am, the crowd began to walk on to the stage, with no objections from Mark or Max. After all, everyone at By The Meadow felt like family (or at least felt like they could be trusted like family). With smiles on every face, the pin was finally pulled on the Daydreams set after they finished with ‘Call On Me’ by Eric Prydz, everyone began the “big” 2-minute walk back to their tents. If night one was meant to feel like an opening ceremony, then they hit the nail straight bang on its shiny head.
On the walk back to the tents, there were some security guards present, but so far back and away from the crowd of people that you never noticed them during any of the sets — but you could easily find them just in case you needed too, which is how it should always be. At the tents, there was condensation, it was cold, but I guess being on a hill near the sea lends itself to those sorts of conditions. It wasn’t Lake Mountain freezing, but I do recommend bringing solid sleeping gear if you plan on going in the future.
In the morning we went for a walk down the hill, past the By The Meadow sign, opened the gate and meandered the Kangaroo track. I don’t know what counts as a Kangaroo track, but my friend who lives in the country assured me that it was one.There was a creek maybe 20 metres further down the steep ditch, but we decided to do some brief yoga instead. After all, the sun was out, and we had some pleasant shade under a tree with no wind, and not a person to be heard near us. After around 30 minutes we ended up back at the campsite — it wasn’t quite the exploration you can take at Lake Mountain, but at least you can escape, unlike the current Inner Varnika location. It’s probably not further of a walk than the one you can take at Hopkins Creek, but at least people can’t still see you at By The Meadow, especially when you just need some escape time that’s not sitting on a public toilet.
Back to the stage action and it felt like Stella Donnelly was the headliner, or at least the name most talked about. She’s been generating attention in the US market and that appears to be helping her exposure back here in Australia. The crowd was all over the hill, sitting down with both ears pointed at the stage, like a school assembly by a guest speaker. After opening with a respectful stolen land speech, she played huge singles during her set such as ‘Mechanical Bull’ and ‘Boy Will Be Boys’. Even threw in a short funny song about the negatives of Sportsbet, that got plenty of laughs. Even told the funny story of explaining the EP title Thrush Metal to her formal Welsh family. This is where Stella is very impressive at such an early stage of her career — she commands the stage and people are just locked into everything she says. I haven’t seen a crowd more quietly locked in at a festival since The Tallest Man on Earth at Golden Plains 2013.
To help process Stella’s set, we took a break about 30 metres away on an open section of the hill to play Finska. Yes they had Finska, freely available for anyone to take and play anywhere they wanted. It was a great way to stretch the legs, meet a few locals confused by the game, and then clearly see when the Dianas were about to take the stage.
This is where I found myself scratching my head and shaking it at the same time. How is one of the countries best bands and best live bands, still completely unknown to even the niches of boutique festivals. Dianas had one of the smallest crowds of the entire weekend, maybe the crowd used the sunny afternoon as a chance to explore the festival campground, I don’t know. But what I do know is that Dianas are like punk angels from another world, almost telepathic with their on-stage musical chemistry. The kind that makes other bands watching say to each other “we need to get more in sync like them”. They’re the kind of band that wouldn’t work if they were missing a member, and despite it clearly being very hot on stage with the back wall all sealed up, by the end of the set the crowd was watching in awe (based solely on the look on their faces). Even when member Caitlin accidentally kicked her volume down via her guitar pedal, during their final song ‘Somebody Else,’ she kept her cool and managed to recover for the final explosive finish to the song — like a skateboarder messing up a trick, yet still managing to remain standing on the skateboard, pure class. My only advice on both the band’s end and the audio technician’s end would’ve been to lift the vocals, they were buried a tad too low in the mix (and this is coming from a fan of low vocals in mixes).
The next activity of the day had the right intentions but needed a little more originality. I’m not talking about the Welcome section, where Cameron and Ruby thanked all the workers, punters (for not destroying the stage during Daydreams the night before), bands and general vibe of the festival, which was all very cute. I’m talking about the running race up the hill in order for one man and then one woman to win a free pass to next year’s festival. The gender separation wasn’t the only awkward part, it’s the fact that this activity is something Meredith has held since the ‘90s. So any real exciting enthusiasm was mixed in with comments of “they took this from Meredith.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s very generous to give up two free passes, but there are so many ways this could be more creative. A stage talent show perhaps, or how about a wholesome activity course without gender separation, or clothes swapping, even — always hilarious, especially with strangers. At festivals like Camp Casual, they would have had dance circles and moments of musical yoga. You could take it one step further like Dan Deacon, and curate those spiral dance circles. Ground participation is so easy at a small festival, there’s nowhere to hide. If anything they should break up the sets with a few more activities throughout the day. Make the crowd very intimate with each other. Even before any music on the Friday, why not start with an activity down at the sunset point area — but I’ll speak more on that area soon.
I’ve seen Suss Cunts a few times now, and this probably wasn’t their best set. I’m guessing a combination of the heat and something else, like having to rush back to Melbourne, because the songs felt a tad rushed, even considering the already short length of them. However, even to fresh ears, the songs would’ve come across tightly constructed, led by their singer Nina Renee, who doesn’t mess around with half cooked ideas — she knows exactly what she wants with every song. This assertiveness makes you a believer in Suss Cunts, a quiet confidence, that they can weather any storm, and that this is still only just the beginning for the band. Or they might flame out at any moment, which makes each set even more vital.
Then came perhaps the favourite moment of the weekend, a real grounding reminder of how lucky and fortunate we are in Melbourne, and it didn’t really have anything to with the strength of our music scene. Recently, Pitchfork posted an article about how artists in the US are leading a trend of running their own festivals, small festivals with a communal feel, moving away from the generic commercial ‘play the set, get paid, and leave’ festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza. This article would be really exciting for people in the US, but as someone from Melbourne, where we’ve had small niche communal festival all around Victoria for this entire decade, you almost had to feel sorry for US music fans.
Which brings me back to the sunset gathering at By The Meadow. The location and the view would’ve been magical even in a windy gusty storm, but luckily for us we scored a warm gradient sunset spectacle. Painters couldn’t paint how magnificent the sunset was. The stroke of genius move by BTM (By The Meadow) was having a classical duo including a Cello, playing delicate arrangements including the Game Of Thrones theme song, that forced the gathering to keep chatter to a low volume and really take in this special country land we are surrounded by in Victoria. Even after a festival season that started all the way back in October and took me all around Victoria, by early April we’re still able to wear shorts and t-shirts at 7pm. This special secret world for 600 people did make you wonder how we got so lucky, and reminded us that we shouldn’t take any of it for granted, and that any missteps we could accuse of the festival of making, would really be us just being incredibly selfish.
I decided to leave behind my new found elderly friends drinking wine well outside my price range to check out Flowertruck‘s set. When I think of Sydney bands that I wish would make the permanent move to Melbourne, Flowertruck is definitely one of the first who come to mind. A lot of that is because I want the lead singer Charles Rushforth to reach his full potential, unleash his personality and get weird in ways he hasn’t yet achieved. He’s got the stage presence, the character, the vocals, the lyrics — he just needs to embrace weird, surround himself with madness and get lost in it. He’s just a bit too clean, a bit too tight. If those screws get loosened, he could become one of those lead singers that’s great in 20 years.
A good example of his confinement was his bewilderment of somebody bringing a couch down to the stage. Then his following bewilderment from the lack of crowd reaction to his comment. Now maybe he’s been to Meredith or Golden Plains before and forgotten, but it sounds more likely that he’s never been to either festival before. In that case Charles, there’s literally 100’s of couches down at the stage there and they feature everything from personal bars, to totem tennis poles, to popcorn machines. The stage comment that was however very funny, was when he described the feeling that all the festival’s millions of crickets must be experiencing down at their ground level. Comparing it to the end of the world or 100-foot tall Slipknot Monsters blasting music above us and then proceeding to dedicate the next song to the crickets. Then they finished with my favourite song moment of the weekend when Flowertruck emphatically played ‘Come Across’, a song I already featured on several of my Spotify playlists, but live on that Maxim PA it was another experience altogether. It couldn’t have felt more from the heart. Throw on top that keyboard hook by Sarah Sykes, which is as vintage as any Depeche Mode keyboard hook, and I looked like the take-all-my-money Futurama meme up on the hill.
If ‘Come Across’ was my favourite live song of the weekend, then The Senegambian Jazz Band were my favourite band of the weekend. There were numerous reasons why. They managed to ride that fine line between fun festive big band and tight, interesting, dissectible, headphone-worthy music. Then there was their noticeable pure enjoyment and smiles across all the members, the kind that comes from enjoying their own music and seeing the crowd’s warm reaction to it. Simple, but the enjoyment was mutual across everyone in the area. The real festival MVP however was the singer and Kora player Amadou Suso. He may be one of the coolest musicians in Melbourne. I have no idea what he’s like off stage, but I don’t want to ruin that illusion of just how cool he is. He automatically makes the band almost a must on every festival in the country, which would actually kind of suck, because I don’t want to get sick of The Senegambian Jazz Band, which could happen if everyone booked them, like they really should. They just spice up not only the Melbourne music scene, but the Australian music scene.
With an evident West African influence in his rhythms and flows, he makes you want to get down and be silly. More impressively the set never feels tiring, there’s enough variety in the arrangements that it makes you actually never want it to end, or at least for it to go a little longer. Whether it’s turning the Kora upside and playing it like a magician or covering a ‘90s song — of which I sadly can’t think of title, despite it being a very famous song (I’m better at naming obscure B-sides). Please DM me the song title if you were there.
I had to gather myself for a moment and went to get some food, $10 small pizzas to be exact, which hit the spot. On the way to the toilets I walked past a classic Australian scene. On the left people were watching Jaws in the movie theatre inside a country hut (props to the selection of movies including Trainspotting, Spirited Away and Kill Bill: Vol 1). Jaws may not be Australian, but a film about a killer shark is more Australian than any other country could claim. Then on the right I could see inside the First-Aid RV, yes a mobile home First-Aid (something you would see rock up to a country footy match), people watching the AFL live on Channel 7. Felt like a scene dropped from The Castle’s final edit. It was all very endearing, and because there was never any lines for the toilets in the toilet truck, I didn’t feel guilty sitting on the toilet for a while, while I typed down all my notes. A nice pause, something you don’t get at big festivals, where you know there’s a busting line outside the door and the guilt gets to you, forcing you to hurry up and not actually gather yourself for a few minutes. Or maybe that’s just me.
Outside of Billy Davis and Pjenné, the rest of the Saturday night set times could’ve been reworked more effectively, and again this is something BTM were aware of, and sometimes it’s unavoidable due to scheduling clashes and stage criteria etc. Firstly, Tiny Little Houses felt like somebody pulling you away from a dance floor (The Senegambian Jazz Band) for a serious D&M. I’m all for D&M’s, but the timing was off, the mood was too positive, those two bands should’ve switched set times. GUM was actually more interesting than I expected, a one-man show like D.D Dumbo, but more focused on snyth and guitar layering. But honestly I wasn’t expecting much — I’m surely not the only person a bit tired of Tame Impala members getting so much exposure (over far more interesting Australian musicians), simply because Kevin Parker is a genius. Jay Watson tried his best — he comes across as a good dude, no ego. Apparently, he was originally meant to have a band, again he would’ve worked better before Senegambian and Billy Davis. Darcy Baylis was also his usual hard-to-pin-down self, twisting and turning from ‘90s electronica to hip-hop to PBR-RnB. It was more noteworthy and discussion worthy than party mood. Which is how Paradise used him when he played upstairs in clubland, while there was an option of basement party DJs at the same time downstairs. Giving punters an option. The crowd was a little confused at BTM by the set time pacing at this point and started to thin out.
Which was unfortunate for Pjenné, who was 100% from the get go. The lighting guy made a big no-no by sitting tight on the lights for like 20 minutes — FYI, DJ set lighting must be 80% go-go from the start, very different to lighting a band or group. This really hurt the early momentum of loosening up the crowd, which was evident by the time the lights got moving and the crowd finally appeared to be back in full party mode, but a good 4 hours later than the full party mood during Billy Davis. For those who hung around, it was a genre world tour experience hour, with the only blemish being playing too much Kylie Minogue, again another trend I wish Melbourne DJs would stop, trying to be too cute and full-circle self-aware, playing pop songs we’ve already played too much for the last 20 years. There’s so much amazing music out there, new and old. Keep it exciting, please. It’s really hard to not get behind Pjenné, who sings along to many of the songs dropped, and chats to everyone in the front row.
The music stopped at 4 am, and for most, it was late enough, however as someone who loves dancing until sunrise at festivals, I had to take the UEboom down the hill to continue the party. Only 8 other people came along, but it’s when I started to jog down notes on how the festival’s identity needs clarifying. By finishing the nights with DJs, some punters come along thinking each night will be a loose party. Instead the DJs need to be advertised as a little boogie before bed or just spread out between the bands, and they had the right lighter DJs to do so. I think to advertise the festival as a day and evening festival, a summer season winde down, would help its market and would leave punters a little less confused at the end of the night. A lot of this was also my fault, naturally assuming the nights should finish the same way, just like every other festival, instead of viewing By The Meadow differently.
This was a notion I didn’t fully grasp until the next morning with a lush closing combination of Leah Senior (who Lachlan, during the following The Ocean Party set, claimed to be his favourite set in a long time) and The Ocean Party. It’s an unfortunate situation Leah Senior find themselves in. Their calm, angelic lulling atmosphere is ideal for festival recovery mornings, I can honestly only think of one other equal option in Australia, that being Dannika. The unfortunate part is that Leah deserves a later time-slot, a bigger audience. Maybe that’s why two of the band members started the more upbeat and fun band Girlatones, trying to break their typecast.
Having said that, Leah Senior looked liked she had grown up on this farm, her music embodied the purity of the country community.
Despite some strong wind kicking in and knocking down the fences around the stage, nothing could prevent the sound during The Ocean Party. I question every PA I’ve ever heard them play through, and there’s been a lot of PA’s I’ve heard them play through. I sat on the hill thinking “oh, this is what they must actually sound like in the studio.” Almost like a jump from Earbuds to $1000 open headphones. They introduced a guest pan flute player as Aldani, which I still find funny typing this up weeks later and I don’t even know the story behind the joke. I think he’s from the band Cool Sounds. Then after reading on Facebook that Snowy (their Saxophone player) couldn’t find his Saxophone the day before, in true dolewave DYI fashion they closed with a local classic ‘Head Down’ with Snowy bringing it home via somebody else’s Saxophone. Please never change, The Ocean Party.
And that’s it, really. By The Meadow is a few slight adjustments from being a flawless wholesome weekend. Add some gripple wire across the stage, hang some ferns. Get rid of the gap between the stage and the crowd, no fence needed, bring everyone together. Add one more vegan option and group activities between sets. Open the gates earlier on the first day, give people a couple hours to set up their tents before the first band. Really minor adjustments, that’s just how impressive By The Meadow truly is.
Looking back on the year that’s been, 2017 has been exceptional. So many of our Aussie artists have exploded overseas, exposing the amazing talent we have here. The element of live performance has also evolved, as we see more and more the creative and the adored putting on insane performances that leave us all in awe.
It is truly an inspiring time in Australian music to see the growth and abundance of talent.
Therefore, as is tradition, we have compiled what we hope to be a comprehensive, exciting and awe-inspiring list of great Australian music.
The list doesn’t just feature a diverse range of genres. It is rightfully made up of many different artists from all walks of life. We’re absolutely delighted to see such a spectrum of artists receiving the attention they deserve!
To help accommodate (and celebrate) as many great tracks as we can, we have decided to limit our annual Australian Top 100 Tracks list to only one song per artist.
We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who emailed and submitted music, liked, shared, retweeted or @tagged this year. It means a lot to the whole Ripe team. Let’s do it all again in 2018!
100. Doona Waves – ‘Come Around’
99. Kaiit – ‘2000 n Somethin’
98. Mount Trout – ‘Home’
97. Sloan Peterson – ‘105’
96. Nali – ‘D.R.D (B2H002)’
95. Georgia Mulligan – ‘Any Given Day’
94. Mic Mills – ‘Too Hot To Sleep’
93. Huntly – ‘Kate’s Bed’
92. Exhibitionist – ‘Hands’
91. Godtet – ‘Take Off’
90. Michael Beach – ‘I Never Had Enough Time With You’
The months leading up to Christmas can be an absolutely tiring time for some. Between festivals that go loud and large like Strawberry Fields, time honoured classics like Meredith and a slew of other events, it’s easy to get lost among the big names. Hopkins Creek not so much managed to get its foot in the door for summer festivals, as it did firmly kick the door down. While only sporting two international headliners, Hopkins Creek nailed so many things in its second year that larger and more established festivals still seem to fluff up.
If you’ve kept your ear to the ground you’re sure to have picked up a bevvy of track IDs from the weekend – so rather than a comprehensive list of every act, we decided to go with Hopkins Creek’s top five moments (in no particular order). Hopefully, if you were there you might agree – and if you missed out, maybe this will encourage you to get your act together and come along next year.
CC Disco smashing out “Great Southern Land” by Icehouse
If you follow Melbourne’s disco darling on Instagram you might have seen a great clip from under the tent of Courtney pounding out an Australian classic. In a set typical of CC’s fondness for definitive disco cuts verging into housier gems, it’s hard to pick out a song or two. However, closing up her set as Saturday night ticked over was a track that got everyone singing. Other noteworthy numbers would be “Dance Ritual I (Lipelis Dream Dance Remix)” by Auntie Flo, but nothing quite compares to a track that would have my parents dancing as much as I was.
Mount Liberation Unlimited teasing out “Double Dance Lover”
The two Swedish maestros brought a brimming live performance to the crater this year, the first international act to play for the festival. Stringing the crowd along with the chipmunk vocal snippets of their most popular track, Mount Lib kept punters going with a fifteen-minute epic.
Sunnyside bringing the funk on Sunday morning
Bringing some balance to the electronic skew of tracks, Sunnyside’s psychedelic jazz performance was the perfect balm for those who might’ve gone a bit too deep in the crater the night before. Proving once and for all that the clarinet can well and truly be an instrument of dancefloor destruction, the quartet swung effortlessly through tempos and some bonus lyricism, bringing some hip-hop swing to their jazz.
Brian Not Brian singing along to Vera’s “Take Me To The Bridge”
Coming in hot from the UK was certified crate digger Brian Not Brian to headline Hopkins Creek. Slotted with the closing set for Hopkins, Brian Not Brian came on after a phenomenal closing track from Pjenne (Kings Of Tomorrow’s “Finally” if you’re interested). Opening up with a spoken word piece announcing that “peace is the word, the word is peace. Peace,” Brian brought in the healthy kick drum, bells, and whistles of Beautiful Swimmer’s “Oh Yeah”. With plenty more percussive belters like “Trummor” by HNNY, Brian Not Brian guided dancers through an exceptional sunset over the crater. As darkness settled and the end of Brian’s set came rolling around, a scarily familiar slap bass line came crawling over the speakers. There was a palpable energy as everyone grabbed their closest friend and sung the hook to “Take Me To The Bridge”. Clearly, Brian was vibing it too –
having an absolute ball in his gumboots (clearly well equipped) and it was enough to get an extra half an hour out of his set.
Hopkins Creek DJs, playing pretty much every classic under the sun
Whispers had been floating around that there would be an extended bar set after Brian Not Brian from the organisers – and after such a stellar effort from the team, they had truly earnt themselves that dream closing slot. Not one for subtleties, things got started with Tears For Fears‘ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”. Between Todd, Olly, Ryan, Josh and James Keys there was a bit of one man upmanship over some hours, maybe being a bit disjointed sometimes but certainly entertaining. Everything from some deeper cuts (Dense & Pika’s “Colt” and Fort Romeau’s “Saku”) to soulful disco numbers (Jocelyn Brown’s “Somebody Else’s Guy” and Mary Clarke Jr’s “Take Me I’m Yours”) to the downright classics (Eric Prydz “Call On Me” and Groove Armada “Superstylin’ ”). Arguably it would be “Retro Grade” by Moda that burnt the house down, heavy on the effects and a nostalgic throwback to the parties that incubated the idea of Hopkins Creek. For me, that would have to be a personal highlight for Hopkins Creek 2017.
Of course, there were plenty of other exceptional moments that deserve a mention. Andy Garvey playing some electro bombs like “My World (Night Drive Mix)” by Sunday Brunch would have to be a hit. Also props to the annoyingly rare “Do I Do” by Maurice McGee getting a spin by Barry Sunset and Fitz-e (Rayko’s edit to be specific, a gem that teases out the vocal for oh so long). Also Claudia Jones – you guys were so much fun and exactly what Hopkins needed to get everyone dancing that Friday night.
All in all, Hopkins Creek proved that bigger isn’t necessarily better, during a time where Australians seem to steer towards smaller and more boutique festivals. The organisers held it together despite any inclement weather (I was feeling nervous camping in what was essentially a giant bowl during a one in a hundred year storm).
Everyone looked like they were having a good time, and from what I heard their policy of inclusivity and calling out any unwanted behaviour was held up. Facilities were ace; staff, sound, and light all did a fantastic job – as did Rhys Newling on the visuals. Not to mention the setting in the crater was sublime. Checklists aside, it was simply an incredibly fun weekend, and hats off to the crew who put it together. You can count me in for the crater next year.
From Ariel Pink’s ‘scatological’ cycle of creativity, to the deeply intertwined cultures of Krautrock and the Aussie music scene, Face the Music 2017 was as interesting and educational as it was diverse and expansive in topics. The two day Australian music industry conference, annexed by Melbourne music institution The Push, is in its 10th year, marking a milestone in public arts and the local music industry. An absolute Mecca for aspiring youth craving to cut their teeth in the music scene, as well as seasoned veterans willing to explore the infinite facets of an ever moving culture, Face the Music prides themselves on their scholarly speakers and the spectrum of expertise brought with them, ensuring a fascinating experience for attendees with a plethora of musical backgrounds.
This year’s was based out of the grand St Paul’s Cathedral, an iconic central Melbourne landmark in its own right. The conference took place over eight separate venues, often running over four sessions at once. The breadth of topics and range of geographic, gender, racial and cultural backgrounds of the over 100 speakers is obvious draw card for the conference’s continual turn out, with purple lanyard sporting conference dwellers to be found in every corner of the CBD.
Kicking off the first day was a keynote panel featuring the ever exciting and enigmatic Ariel Pink, offering intimate insight into his creative processes and influences, including the unusual and poignant story behind his latest album Dedicated to Bobby Jameson. Later, and certainly a highlight for the day, the panel ‘Whitewashed’ tackled the prominent issue of the misrepresentation of people of colour throughout the industry, spawning debate and praise throughout conversations overheard around the cathedral.
Taking an international perspective, through the Victorian Govt.’s brand new ‘Music Passport’ program, there were a range of German guest speakers representing names such as Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Fest and German label Kontor Records. These speakers gave interesting advice for Australian musicians regarding the mega yet obscure market of the German live music scene. Concluding the first day were local artists Body Type and Press Club supporting the ever invigorating Kirin J. Callinan on the St. Paul’s stage for a free show, accessible to anyone so inclined.
Day two began with Herald Sun’s musical ex Mikey Cahill with a nostalgic retrospect of Melbourne music. Simultaneously, talks on artist management essentials such as exposure and accounting took place across the seven other venues. Later on was the hugely popular Planet Radio featuring Cheryl Waters, globally renowned DJ, programmer and host for Seattle’s KEXP radio station. You may be familiar with our own King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s numerous appearances on the station. Spread amongst the remaining day were numerous discussions and panels, including Marky Ramone, who featured in conversation on the ins and outs of the dense yet rewarding and expressive industry. Again, to top it off was ‘Cookin’ with Kirin J. Callinan, an interview/showcase of Kirin’s culinary skills and inner thoughts as an artist, cooking and divulging live from the carpark.
To mention every standalone event held at the conference within one article would result in a short book. This year’s event has topped its previous year’s yet again, with a larger turnout every iteration, and a continually impressive lineup of speakers.
For any person even remotely interested in music or behind the scenes of your favourite artists, festivals or labels, Face the Music is an amazing resource at your disposal.
Good Morning may not be one of those well-known household names in Melbourne at the moment… But they should be. With a recent signing to Bedroom Suck Records, it was an absolute no-brainer to take the opportunity to chat to the Melbourne pair Stefan Blair and Liam Parsons to find out how they’re going.
In the world of laid-back, mellow and subtle artists, it is a rarity to see any bands or solo artists rise up the ranks. For instance Mac DeMarco would be one of the more recent artists to achieve this, and the “feature” that separates Mac from his peers is his humour, whether lyrically or on stage. This is something that Good Morning share with Mac, their ability to laugh and enjoy a good joke. Although I feel at times a more serious nature could help them on their way up, their playful approach to life and music translates to curiosity, and an eagerness to keep an open mind. Their signing with Bedroom Suck (who I feel are heavily underrated, signing some of the best bands in the country) could be that final step-up Good Morning needs to break out and become an industry staple.
So Good Morning is where my money would go at the moment, with a brand new album already recorded, I get the impression that the boys are in a good head space right now. They seem to be taking leaps, with a Europe Tour being the biggest one, and I can’t imagine they’d take these risks unless they believed in the new album. Until it comes out, let’s play catch-up below with Good Morning.
Marcus Rimondini: Where have you been hiding for most of this year? Liam Parsons: Recording, slowly. Stefan Blair: Mixing some stuff. Liam: [laughs] Taking ages to finish it. It’s been nice though, no time restraints or anything. We checked out of the whole thing for a while there.
Did you not know the next step after the initial releases? Liam: We’ve had demos of what the album’s going to be for a year and a half or so… Stefan: We started mixing it, but it was a bit fucked. So we went back and started again just a few weeks ago.
Are you two mixing it? Liam: Yeah, [we] tried to do everything this time.
Have you always done everything yourselves? Liam: It has slowly progressed that way. The first thing we did was recorded and mixed with our friend Hamish Mitchell (I’lls). Then with the second EP we recorded it all ourselves, then mixed with him. Now, with this one, we’re recording and mixing it all ourselves.
How did the Bedroom Suck Records signing happen? Stefan: One day Joe Alexander just sent me a message on Facebook [laughs]. I think he was just plotting away things, like he usually does, and was interested in doing this re-issue. Which was coincidentally around the time we were thinking about the record and wanted to send it to him anyway.
So he snuck in by just asking about a reissue, but was secretly looking to… ? Liam: I think secretly we were trying to get the album in.
So you were both secretly trying to play it cool? Liam: [laughs] Pretty much. I think we both got what we wanted in the end.
It looks like you barely have a break from touring until October, is this the longest you have ever toured? Liam: We have actually never really been on tour… we did go on a trip to New York once for CMJ, but that was just staying in the same place. Stefan: It was sort of more of a holiday. Liam: I guess we’ve been to Sydney a couple times? And went to Brisbane once.
Does this tour make you excited or daunted? Liam: Excited! I haven’t been overseas since CMJ. Stefan: I’m into it. I like getting out of Melbourne, and visiting somewhere near like Switzerland will be exciting.
Question… Do you get paid more or screwed over more in Switzerland? Liam: … I don’t know actually [laughs]. Stefan: [laughs] We’ll probably end up spending way more money than we should. Liam: The beers cost more, that’s for sure.
Has it always been just the four of you in Good Morning? Liam: Yeah, just the four of us playing live. Stefan: And Joe’s coming too this time. Liam: And our friend Kim Ambrosius is over there in Copenhagen. She’s been helping Joe with Bedroom Suck so it should be good. It’s going to be busy I guess.
What’s the jamming/recording process like in Melbourne? Stefan: We mainly work at home and Liam’s beach house in Lorne. Liam: … And I guess we are mixing it in my bedroom in Fairfield [laughs].
Did the beach house influence the sound or the atmosphere of the recordings? Stefan: It kind of sounds glassy? Liam: [laughs] There’s glass windows everywhere. We recorded the Glory EP there and had a construction site going on next door the whole time. So yes, you can hear hammering and drills in the background. However, there’s no WIFI, no people… it’s good for that. You just kind of sit there, and all of the sudden you’ve been there for 14 hours. Stefan: You sit there until very early in the morning, go to sleep, wake up and do it again. It’s a nice routine. Liam: There’s nothing else to do, maybe rent DVDs? [laughs]
Do you do anything creative outside of music? Liam: Not really, we’re not very good at anything else [laughs]. Stefan: We play in other friends bands and stuff like that. Liam: We try to do our own artwork, posters, and t-shirts! Stefan: Although, they are usually thrown together in a couple minutes [laughs].
… Is ‘we’ actually just one person? Stefan: Nah, whoever wants to do it. Liam: [laughs] Whoever can be bothered.
Is it just you two who record the music? Or do you bring in the band when it comes to recording? Stefan: We record it all. Some of the songs we will play with the band before we go in and record them. But most of the time we just record them as demo’s and show it to everyone else and see what they make of it.
Has the band always been the same four members? Liam: It’s always been the four of us because there are more shows at the moment. Not everyone can always make them, so we’ve had Joe filling in on drums and Stefan’s brother on bass for a while as well.
How was the Tasmanian tour? Liam: So good! Stefan: It was pretty wild. Liam: There was this crazy bar called Dan’s Bar in Franklin. It was this weird little alternate universe [laughs]. Stefan: We ended up having an after party at this woman’s house named Jane – she was 82 I think. She had a bunch of us back at her house for drinks and weird stew. Liam: She was just sitting there drinking goon and chain smoking [laughs]. Liam: There were some good, weird pub shows as well – especially in this place called Wynyard. People were just shouting at us to play covers [laughs]. So it was us TRYING to do that, and making up covers on the spot.
Do you guys have any directional changes moving forward? Anything new you want to add to Good Morning, or just more refining? Liam: We’ve been thinking more keyboard. It’s probably cleaner. Stefan: Yeah, more saxophone as well. A lot of it was written on keys, there wasn’t much of that before. Liam: No huge effort put into changing things, but it has naturally changed I guess.
Are the songs more internal or external? Stefan: I feel like they’ve stayed somewhat the same. Liam: They go deeper, maybe. We tried to be somewhat less whiny, tried to whinge less [laughs]. Stefan: The vocal performance hasn’t improved whatsoever. Liam: [laughs] I don’t know how it panned out though, it’s really pretty whiny.
Do the track lengths vary more this time around? Stefan: They are all pretty short still. Liam: There’s a couple of four minute ones… Or almost four minutes [laughs]. One’s about 3 minutes 50 seconds, but at the end of the day, it’s like 10 songs in 27-28 minutes.
Have you been playing the new album on the recent tours? Liam: Yeah, we’ve been playing most of the tracks for a fair while. There’s still a couple that we don’t know how to play live because of the arrangements – trying to figure out how to make it a band song. Stefan: Yeah, how to tune without having four guitars on stage. Liam: [laughs] Like Wilco. Stefan:Jet [laughs].
What’s your connection to Baro? Stefan: We still play in his band – I play bass. Liam: I’m on guitar. Stefan: We recorded a couple tracks with him on the EP that he just put out.
Is it nice being able to defer to somebody else? Liam: Yeah, it’s great [laughs]. Stefan: You just rock up, you’ve got your instrument and that’s it. It’s nice to add another genre to what we can do I guess. I think we’re going to try and make a record with him at some point, but we will see if that happens.
Have you learnt much from that type of experience? Liam: It’s definitely helped me play the guitar better, expand the range I guess.
Some guy named Alejandro Tafurth made the ‘Warned You’ video on YouTube, did he ask you? It has 660K views Stefan: Yes! So he sent us a message and said: “I made this video, can I put it up on the internet?” I was like “Sure!” [laughs]. Liam: Me and Joe were talking about that yesterday, people think it’s the actual video. It’s quite funny. The video is very sexual [laughs]. There’s a couple of those, where people go on skiing trips or hiking trips and they’ll make little holiday videos. Stefan: It’s like those videos you see of like two twelve or thirteen-year-old kids hanging out with their iPhones, filming some shit. It’s just their day, hanging out. Liam: There’s this one where some kids in America played one of our songs at their high school talent show [laughs]. It’s wild, and actually really beautiful. Stefan: There was also a band in Japan that used our track in some sort of battle of the bands.
Have you guys gotten any other weird requests in your DMs? Liam: Not exactly weird, but a lot of people ask for lyrics because we never put our lyrics online. I guess we mumble a lot, so nobody ever knows what we’re saying [laughs]. We just sort of ignore them. I think we used to send them out. Stefan: There’s a lot of Genius.com incorrect lyrics out there [laughs]. Liam: The reissue has a poster in it with all the lyrics that we did, it’ll be interesting to see if that actually changes anything.
Have you seen what’s happened to your Spotify? There’s an album in your profile clearly not by you… Liam: [laughs] Yeah it’s so good. Stefan: That shit got us a lot of weird messages. People were quite confused. Liam: There’s some great tweets actually. Stefan: There’s a really funny one that we got this morning. A girl in South America sent us a message saying “Come play!” Then we got another message this morning and she changed her mind: “My girlfriend and I just listened to your new album, it sucks, don’t come” [laughs]. Liam: [laughs] Here’s another one: “Confused as to what the fuck you just released, did you just record some pre-made beats and just loop them?” — “I am sorry if you spent a lot of effort on the new album, but it sucks” [laughs].
What’s planned after the Europe tour? Liam: More touring and more writing.
Have you played any festival circuits? Liam: The only festival we’ve played was Paradise Music Festival. We did a few with Baro over summer which was funny. It’s a whole different world and pretty entertaining. The problem was we just got drunk and tried to meet semi-famous people all the time. Stefan:Jamie T side of stage [laughs]. Liam: I don’t think we met anyone at Laneway, but we used a bunch of their resources, someone got a free massage. Stefan: I did get a free massage! Then we just took all the free beers and went to the nearest fish and chip shop. Liam: Cheers Laneway! [laughs].
Come April you could easily be fooled into thinking that the Australian festival season had well and truly run its course. The nights are longer, colder and having so many weekends away have taken a heavy toll on your mind, body and bank account. However there’s still respite to be found from the impending Melbourne winter, with Inner Varnika — a three-day festival situated in dusty Bookar. For many, this last hoorah might even be their biggest, with the combination of a small crowd, broad music styles and a single stage lending itself to prime festival vibe.
The first peek of the rolling hills and white tents from the windows of the coach bus up to Bookar was enough to stir a whole lot of excitement. The familiar rocks, thistles and occasional cow skull that are now engraved into the Inner Varnika experience haven’t changed a bit.
And neither have some of the DJs, apparently. IV favourites the Alley Tunes DJs were the first to play, bringing with them some heavy dub tracks. DJ Manchild was back again too, dealing a healthy dose of afrobeat tracks in the afternoon. Set highlights include the stuttering organ of Timmy Thomas’ ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’, and uplifting soul of ‘Awake O Zion’ by Twinkie Clarke.
The first international of the festival was Stones Throw staple James Pants. Performing live, Pants bought a weird blend of funky, psychedelic jams. Experimenting with vocal work, the off kilter beats teetered on the edge of that oft-overlooked genre of aqua-crunk/wonky. Testing the water with tracks maybe a little different to what revellers have come to expect from Inner Varnika, Pants no doubt captivated the crowd with a set that was as danceable as it was unique.
As night had well and truly fallen it was time for one of the hardest working producers around Melbourne, Rings Around Saturn aka Dan White aka 2200, to take the stage. The multitude of gun fingers and air drumming for ‘The Hammer (Think Mix)’ proved jungle is still enjoying a strong renaissance. Dan White’s latest release ‘Erosion’ (on Analogue Attic Recordings) also enjoyed a very warm reception.
While the night tipped over into the deeper and darker side of things, In Aeternam Vale was setting up. Playing in a dusty bowl to revellers kitted out in all manner of haphazard clothing, I couldn’t imagine a better scene for IAV’s caustic sounds.
Working tirelessly on a hulking mass of cables in front of him, IAV whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Switching between the more traditional format of 4/4 techno and jarring polyrhythmic sounds, the Frenchman seemed to be enjoying himself as much as those in the crowd. As impressive as it was to see him holding his iPad up to the crowd and happily pointing towards the screen, he could’ve been pointing at Candy Crush for all I know about modular synths.
It’s no easy task following an act like IAV, but Inner Varnika knows how to structure its timetable and selected Moopie to follow. Having played several years ago, Moopie is a veteran to hard hitting techno that draws upon a breadth of influences like breakbeat, electro and acid. Crowd pleaser ‘X’ by Gesloten Cirkel was my swan song before turning in for the night.
Come Saturday morning and a much-needed coffee from the guys at Alley Tunes, it was nice to sit up on the side of the hill and hear Silver Linings exude some lovely funk sounds. It may still be the morning but that wasn’t stopping revellers from pulling out the badminton nets for a quick hit or trailing a silken wedding dress through the mud, a tinnie in hand. The hedonistic nature of the Australian doof coupled with its unique setting is really worthy of admiration.
Who better to compliment this debauchery than Toni Yotzi. As many talented artists as there were for the weekend, Yotzi would no doubt have to be my pick of the locals. Running effortlessly through genres, Yotzi swung from noise to punk to grime, possibly via trap, and many more. Big man tune with ‘Shots’ by Lamont & Grim Sickers as well as the very NSFW track ‘Manikin’ by Dopplereffekt.
Heading into the evening there was a lot of excitement building up for Terre Thaemlitz aka DJ Sprinkles. A lot can be said about her vast body of work and strong political messages embedded in her art. If you are interested in the above I strongly urge you to visit Comatonse Recordings’ website and have a read of the articles and essay transcripts.
While it is impossible to detach the political nuances of Sprinkles set, I’ll try my best to recount the set for the music alone. Put simply it was one of the most cohesive and emotive pieces of music I’ve heard. Deeper than deep sounds coming from the stack of speakers, the crowd almost in a meditative dance for parts of the set. Over the rolling bassline you could hear people talking to one another, in lieu of the familiar vocal loops and samples that charge DJ Sprinkles’ work. As much as a buzzword as this sounds it felt like “conversational” house, an unhurried moment where you could dance or talk.
This was until about halfway through where Sprinkles, hands scurrying across an echo sampler, worked in the charged vocals on Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’. Continuing this dynamic, DJ Sprinkles played what I’m sure would be many people’s festival highlight – Frankie Knuckle’s poignant ‘Whistle Song’.
Given a mammoth four hour slot to close the Saturday night, Peter Van Hoesen played all manner of techno. It would almost be easier to recite the tracks than describe the closing Saturday set. Everything from ‘Alienate 4a’ by Alien Rain, ‘Chrome’ by Roadking, a subtle nod to IV15 with Voices From the Lake‘s ‘258 B’ and the massive ‘XLB’ by Pearson Sound.
Dusting off the cobwebs for the last day of Inner Varnika it was time for Suit Sunday, an event that has taken on a life of its own. Thanks in part to a loophole which affords Inner Varnika tax exemption if a significant portion of attendees are wearing church-appropriate garb — i.e. a shirt and blazer — Suit Sunday is one of the festival highlights. Some beautiful numbers were on display, with Christmas suits, wetsuits and hot pink numbers with matching flamingo sunnies.
Not to make the same mistake as last year, I was up early enough to see Albrecht La’Brooy performing live to a crowd that sat patiently on a tarp in front of the stage. Shifting from gentle ambient sounds with a rich selection of field recordings, the two worked up their improvised set into more of a driving rhythm.
After kicking myself for missing D. Tiffany‘s set on Saturday, I was sure not to miss the second musical offering from Canada for the festival – Jayda G. Considering she made her debut on none other than Frankston’s finest Butter Sessions, I’d like to think Jayda would be vibing Melbourne in particular. Her performance, dance moves, mixing and selection gave us the impression that she was enjoying the show almost more than we were.
Heavy on the faders and bopping to all manner of hip house and disco, Jayda laid down some huge numbers. The strong female vocal presence in her track selection like Norma Jean Bell – ‘I’m The Baddest Bitch (In The Room)’, Cece Peniston – ‘He Loves Me 2 (Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’s 12” Mix) and the hugely addictive hook of ‘Who’s Dick Is This’ by Princess Di brought out the most salacious dance moves, before closing on Aaliyah’s ‘One In A Million’.
The bar was set high for Sex Tags, both by Jayda and their previous two years. Could they deliver for almost six hours? Would Sotofett and Burgerfett be able to match the energy of the Suit Sunday crowd? Would they play ‘Return of the Mack’ again?
To clear up the last question, lest it linger and distract from the rest, the answer is unfortunately no. That’s not to say the set wasn’t full of some feel good housey-garage numbers though, like Terrence Parker’s ‘Your Love’ and Barbara Tucket’s ‘Beautiful People’. The whole set was certainly a journey with an electric hour of rolling acid-type dub, finishing off their set with a bass heavy number. Or was it their last? As the crowd was clearly begging for more, Sotofett asked to play one more track (or was it ten more?), finishing with The Brothers Johnson‘s ‘Stomp!’.
So, yes — that was IV 2017. Dare I say it, the bar was raised slightly higher once again. All the feedback I have for the crew, crowd and artists of Inner Varnika is: keep on doing what you’re doing.
One of the most exciting Australian electronic artists on a continual rise at the moment is Roland Tings. Since his debut LP release back in 2015, he has played festival stages across Australia, headed overseas to play internationally and dropped a new EP Each Moment A Diamond which has received nothing but praise alongside his first release. His music brings to our Australian scene a vibrant array of colour, interesting textures and basically an overall package that is totally unique to us at the moment.
Whilst touring around Australia and New Zealand on his ‘Each Moment A Diamond’ EP – AUS & N.Z Tour’, we caught up with Roland Tings in his old suburb of Fitzroy to chat travel and tours – in particular his inclusion on the St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2017 line-up -, his friend and also rising artist Harvey Sutherland, his inspirations and future, and what we can look forward to from him in terms of his production and vision.
Marcus Rimondini: So in the past year you have spent a lot of time travelling around the US. What were some of the ups and downs of being there?
Roland Tings: Touring there is in its own world – it’s very different to touring in Australia where you fly to most of the gigs. In America it was a 30-day tour with Chrome Sparks, in a van, just driving all day and playing all night. We’d only be sleeping in shitty roadside motels for three or four hours at a time.
Did you find it difficult to perform by the time the 25th gig came around?
It’s easy in some ways, harder in others. You can get into the venue, set up your stuff and do what you have to do – but by like the 27th show in Washington D.C., after we had driven around the entire country, I was just at the end of my tether. Doing 27 supports in a row with a variety of good and bad shows, it was taxing emotionally.
But so many great things did happen on that tour! I even went out with RÜFÜS / RÜFÜS DU SOL as well and did six dates with those guys, really cool time. Touring around I enjoyed the vibes in Seattle, Portland and LA, whilst New York was quite an experience. I stayed there for about a month and a half in between tours with my friends in Greenpoint.
Why did you choose to release just an EP this time around?
It just made sense. From my perspective, my manager’s perspective and the label’s perspective it seemed right to not jump straight into an album. I’ve got so much material, the EP could’ve easily been an album; my last one was eight and ten on the vinyl, so it just felt like the right thing to do. I think for a lot of the time while I was making the EP, I was trying to work out what kind of music I wanted to make.
When I made the first record, I didn’t really know what I was trying to do. I just made a bunch of stuff quite quickly and I didn’t have a whole lot of faith in it. But everyone did seem to like it, which was really cool for me. So with this EP, it was a case of going back to the drawing board and having to think deeply about what I was trying to achieve, what kind of sounds I wanted to use and how to push the sound forward from what it was through to what it is now (which is a bit more refined with better production).
On your new EP ‘Each Moment A Diamond‘, is there a reason why you included ‘Hedonist’ and not ‘Eyes Closed’?
The EP was done quite a long time ago. I got really frustrated with various delays and thought ‘I just need to release something to feel like I still exist’. It’s hard to be a musician and go a whole year without releasing a single piece of music. I had ‘Eyes Closed’ sitting around, made it in winter last year, so we put that one out to stop myself from losing the plot while we waited for the EP to come together [laughs].
I did think it might be a bit confusing to not have ‘Eyes Closed’ on there, especially because the artwork is similar, but the tracks didn’t tie in… You got me [laughs]. I honestly thought about this, and I thought, you’d really have to be paying attention to notice.
How much do you think about the track order of the EP? Or now that we’re in the streaming age is that less of a big deal now?
For me, it’s really important and it’s still something that I care so much about. I want to create a body of work that flows and is a good listen from start to finish – I want people to sit down and ‘LISTEN’ to the record. I mean, I used to listen to DJ mixes almost exclusively and that was the only thing I would listen too. But since I’ve started getting into Spotify, which I had to get for Roland Tings, I really got into it and now I only listen to albums start to finish. It’s funny because the consensus is that in the streaming age fewer people do this, whereas I’ve gone the other way.
When you’re constructing a song is there anything specifically that you start with or does it vary?
It’s never the drums. It’s always something melodic and it’s also usually never a chord progression. Some kind of sequence, some interesting melodic idea, or an interesting combination of things that I’ve chopped up and rearranged. Then from that point, it’s anybody’s guess. [Momentary distraction by every one of cute dog in Edinburgh Park]
When you added a vocalist, did you look specifically for a female voice? How did that come about with Nylo?
I definitely wanted to work with a vocalist but didn’t really have any solid ideas about who that had to be –
I had a think through a bunch of different options. We hit up a whole bunch of different people, and very interesting, talented people had a go, but Nylo was the one who really stuck with me. She did a great job, we got straight into the studio and nailed it in just a few sessions and that was it. It was a fast process.
Who does your artwork? It’s one of the few pieces of music artwork I’ve seen recently that seems to match exactly how the music sounds [to me] – how did you come across them?
The guys who do the artwork, Tim and Ed, they’ve been my friends for ages. Previously when I was a graphic designer they were like my idols. I loved their work so much and they kill it with everything they do. I think we come from a very similar place – we’ve spent years going to the same parties, listening to the same music, going to the same exhibitions. We have the same friends, go on holidays together. Tim, Ed and Roland Tings come from the same world. When it comes time to do a record and the artwork to go with it, we have a meeting and I tell them what the record is about, what I was thinking about when I made it, and they just go and make it happen.
When they come back it’s always spot on, it’s always amazing, and they always nail it. The stuff they send back is always kind of weird, but then you look back in two years and everyone’s started doing that same thing. Their aesthetic is part of the sound. They listen to my music while they work on other stuff. Sometimes I look at their work and I think about what kind of artwork they would make for the song that I’m working on. I feel like they’re almost members of the band.
You mentioned you used to listen to post-rock? That escapism can still be felt in the new EP. Do you still listen to post-rock or have you moved on to a more modern version?
[Laughs]. Yeah, that post-rock stuff is a little dated now… Maybe. I very rarely find myself listening to electronic music these days. I mostly listen to ambient music or rock bands, you know, good old Smith Street Band or like Eddy Current.
Are you keen to explore more usage of guitars on further releases?
There’s guitar on the last record, and I’m definitely keen to explore a bit more of that when I make an album. It’s going to have a lot of guitar. [CORRECT] I really like as a great blueprint for the way that these palettes are done in post-rock, combine well with electronic music like Mount Kimbie. [CORRECT] I think they do an amazing job with those sorts of tones so that’s a huge reference for me.
Where’s the best place to listen to the new EP – the countryside?
I would say just driving through the countryside. I like listening to stuff on planes, looking out the window, and not everybody gets the chance to do that very often. I think moving vehicles, especially in the car are one of the best places to enjoy music. You can have it up as loud as you want, the physicality of the sound coming out, the changing scenery and crazy coincidences with the weather. You can’t be on your phone, so you’re more locked in.
So yeah, I think the car, unless you have a really good setup for listening at home where you don’t have your housemates coming in [laughs]. Or let’s just say ‘kick-ons’, but the more relaxed version where it’s just a few people, all the lights are off and you’re all lying on the floor of your living room with the music up really loud and the sun’s coming up.
‘Each Moment A Diamond’ EP – AUS & N.Z Tour @ Howler Melbourne
How important is it when it comes to translating the songs live?
The live thing has always been a large part of it. I noticed not a lot of people doing that in Australia (playing electronic music live) when I started. I knew there were loads of people in America doing it, and always been reasonably big in Europe, but not many people were doing it here.
One of my favourite Australian groups for the longest time were Seekae. They were so cool and I went to all their shows. So it was those guys and Speed Painters that I know for me and my friend Harvey Sutherland were basically our inspiration.
Who is your live partner in crime?
Bill was the drummer for the Chrome Sparks tour – he’s played for Shlohmo, he’s based and produces in LA, he does loads of different stuff, session and live touring stuff. On the Chrome Sparks tour, I was doing lots of improvisation and Bill has existed not so much in the world of house and techno, but he was like “I love what you’re doing with your modular, we should do something”. So we went out to Joshua Tree after the tour and just jammed it out, it was sick. I was like “Dude, come to Australia and we’ll do this on the St. Jerome’s Laneway tour and make it happen”, so he did. It was a lot of hard work but we put it together and it worked!
Now I work with Julian Sudek who plays in World Champion. He’s used to playing on a live kit and an SPD, as opposed to Bill who was all MIDI-Control, so that again brings a different vibe. However I think this is the one that’s going to stick for awhile – it just really works.
How was the St. Jerome’s Laneway tour?
It was really cool. For a very long time I didn’t really feel like a part of the music industry or anything. I hadn’t felt like I was a part of a Melbourne scene at all, and I’ve never felt part of the higher level Australian music scene of people who do these big festivals and stuff like that. Splendour In The Grass last year, for my first time, I was in the artist area and there were people that I knew there, it was like “Oh hey, I met you at this festival and we had a beer” [laughs].
I feel like the Laneway tour was again was like that – I knew some people on there, I had some mates on the tour. Bill and I were doing a show that we really believed in, and people responded really well. It was wild some of the scenes in Melbourne and Sydney in particular – just hundreds of people going mental and we were basically on the stage doing completely improvised modular techno [laughs]. It felt like something very special to me.
The Laneway crew was sick as well and I had so many cool random encounters. I was talking to somebody about why do people always cry on planes, and he had an amazing and elaborate theory, and we just kept talking. Then he was like “Oh I’m in Glass Animals” and I was like “Oh cool!” because they’re like a really big band and it was cool that the tour had big bands. They were full of the people that I would just hang out with.
‘Each Moment A Diamond’ EP – AUS & N.Z Tour @ Howler Melbourne
What’s some of the gear you use live on stage?
It changes drastically all the time. For example, the current tour has the full drum kit on stage with a snare drum, a tom mic’d up and running into a mixer on the stage where I’m doing delay and reverb effects on the live drums with an SPD also running into my mixer. So essentially I’m manipulating the live kit and sending back out to the front of house. Then I’m doing my usual thing of a synthesiser and effect pedals.
It’s fun to play, as opposed to the Laneway tour, where it was all modular and mostly improvised which made it very hard. It’s way more nerve racking because if you get up and don’t have anything prepared, and there are a thousand people watching you, it can create a lot of stress [laughs]. People are going to hate this if it doesn’t go well, it’s really bad when it goes bad [laughs].
I’ve used a few Roland Tings tracks in DJ sets – do you ever think about the intro and outro and how it translates to mixing like some house artists do?
Absolutely, I think it’s one of the prime things – even though I’m not really making music for DJ’s so much anymore like I used to when I started. Now I know my audience is more like people who are listening on Spotify rather than DJ’ing. It’s always got a DJ friendly intro and outro, there’s always 16 bars of something to get you in and out if you choose to DJ the songs. I don’t know why I keep doing it, it’s just how I like to make music, and when I’m making my songs I like to try and mix into another track and see what works, and what doesn’t work.
The art of the intro is actually really, really hard to get right. I don’t know why it’s so hard but it is. If you listen to some commercial dance stuff it’s literally just 16 bars of the drum bit and then it drops into the song. But getting something that builds up organically from the intro and is interesting I can find very difficult yet fun [laughs].
What’s the plan for the rest of the year?
I’ll be going back to the US in May to go on tour with Com Truise and Clark which will be sick. It’s a big tour going everywhere so that’ll be cool to eat McDonald’s with those guys every day [laughs]. Then I’ll come back and start working on an album, or whatever that looks like, I don’t really know.
Are you excited or nervous?
I’m excited and honestly can’t wait to grow this project because I already feel like I’ve advanced musically so far beyond where I started. I just can’t wait to keep it going. So many sounds I want to explore, and so many people that I want to work with – I’m looking forward to it.